Top-Seeded Spartans Fall To Cardinals 57-44
PHOENIX (WWJ/AP) – Down by 5 points at the half – the Michigan State Spartans just couldn’t battle back losing to the Louisville Cardinals 57-44 on Thursday during the NCAA Men’s West Regional semifinal basketball tournament.
Draymond Green finished with a double/double, scoring 13 points and 16 rebounds in his final game as a Spartan, Brandon Wood followed with 14 points for Michigan State – who were taken to task in the second half by the Cardinals.
No. 4 Louisville kept the pressure on the No. 1 seed Spartans holding them to just 28 percent shooting and just 23 percent on 3 point attempts hitting just 5 of 21.
“We won together, we had fun together, ” said Spartan head coach Tom Izzo. “Collectively we just didn’t get it done.”
Louisville’s Chane Behanan had a game high 15 points 9 rebounds, Russ Smith 11 points. Gorgui Dieng anchored Louisville’s stifling defense with seven blocked shots.
Louisville (29-9) smothered the NCAA tournament’s best-shooting team with its matchup zone, getting good pressure from its guards up top and some big swats by Dieng, one of the nation’s top shot-blockers.
The Cardinals relied on 3-point shooting in the first half and went inside the second to befuddle the Spartans, earning a trip to the West final against Marquette or Florida on Saturday.
The Cardinals shot 38 percent from the floor, while hitting 9 of 23 three-point attempts.
This sweet matchup of top programs featured two of college basketball’s best short-preparation coaches.
Rick Pitino has used his speed-the-opponent-up system to reach the Final Four five times, becoming the first coach to lead three different schools to the national semifinals. Once past the NCAA tournament’s first week, he’s had a knack for guiding his team farther along the bracket, advancing to the regional final all 10 times he’s gotten a team to the semifinals.
Grabbing the NCAA crown was not meant to be for the Spartans (29-8) and Tom Izzo, who has been the king of consistency during his 17 seasons in East Lansing, led the Spartans to the Final Four six times, including three straight from 1999-2001, along with a national championship in 2000. He led Michigan State to the NCAA tournament 14 straight years and into the round of 16 in 10 of the past 15 seasons.
Michigan State managed a short run to get within four, but Louisville used its pressure to get a couple of steals and baskets to go up 43-32. Dieng followed with a couple more swats – one on Keith Appling that sailed into the stands – to keep the Spartans from making a run.
Louisville outscored Michigan State by six inside and had a 17-4 advantage off the bench.
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